Archive for the ‘ETP’ Category

First contact with Japanese language learning at SOAS

Sábado, 2006 noviembre 25

About two weeks ago I came from the 6 day intensive Japanese learning at SOAS.

The pace was quite insane and we did in just a week (6 hours a day) pretty much everything I have been doing in one full year at Casa Asia in Barcelona (~70 hours), and then some more (kanjis aside).

SOAS structured the classes in three levels, with about 8-10 people per class, except for the higher level which was just about 5 people. In case you want to have a look at what we faced with:

  • Beginner level: Most people went here. Just three weeks before, they had been handed Hiragana and Katakana drill books, and were supposed to know them pretty well by the time we got to SOAS. (those are indeed pretty easy to learn, but keep in mind this people had a job during those three weeks and had to do and understand everything on their own, so most of them could read like a word per minute…).

    From then on, pace was breathless, going from absolute zero to lesson 12th of textbook Minna no Nihongo (darn good textbook IMHO, specially its grammar notes), for those that know it.

  • Non-beginner I: Started kanji from scratch, having 10 of them a day (that’s not a typo) using Basic Kanji Book, and went from Lesson 13th to 22nd of Minna no Nihongo I.
  • Non-beginner II: Just a handful of guys of mixed skills (from someone having lived for some years in Japan, to some others that studied it for quite a few years). This was too much for my body, so cannot tell, but I do know they could read far more kanji than the ones I more or less know (~150). They were supposed to know pretty much everything from both volumes I and II of Minna no Nihongo.

Since it was pretty insane to think that people assimilated anything from such a squeezed timetable, we will be doing review on our own from now until the beginning of february, through SOAS e-learning program and by having 1 hour one-to-one live classes (through Skype, MSN, phone or whatever everyone has at hand). I’m talking to Noriko-sensei tomorrow morning for the second time. I actually have to say that last time was quite fun.

Unfortunately for me, though, at non-beginner I, everything at SOAS was just a review, for the third time (it was not new to me at Casa Asia either), so was somewhat boring T_T. There was quite a huge gap between non-beginner I and II, so the smart guys really went quite far from my reach. That means, then, that until February I will be re-re-reviewing. Oh well, still, at the pace classes go, everything will start to be new by the time we go back to London next February…

Note: You can download flash cards matching vocabulary from Minna no Nihongo, compatible with JFC, at


What is the ETP about?

Martes, 2006 noviembre 21

Ok, so let’s get done with the boring entry.

First some links that will save my day:
The buddies behind all this.
Sciences Po
The school in charge of the European Inception module’s educational content. They delegate the language teaching to London’s School of Oriental and Asian Studies (SOAS in short) of the University of London, and the Japanese business teaching to Milan’s Bocconi School of Management.
Waseda University
In charge of the language and business education while in Tokyo, Japan.
Yonsei University
In charge of the language and business education while in Seoul, South Korea.

Those link to descriptions about the program, so have a look before you keep reading.

The Executive Training Programme, financed by the European Comission, (that means your taxes if you live within the EU), aims to give companies a better chance to do business in Japan or South Korea, by giving one of their employees with a certain degree of responsibility on decision making (hence the "executive" tag) an intensive education on general culture, language, and business culture of the country the candidate applies for, for about 6 weeks (spread around 5 months) in the three European schools mentioned above, and for about 5 months in the Japanese or Korean universities mentioned also above. After that, the executive gets to work with a Japanese or Korean company for 3 months to experience the nitty gritty first hand.

Money-wise, the grantee gets 22,500€ from the moment he/she steps into Japan/Korea. Not a penny before that. Which means that either him/her or his/her company must give support, at least, during the first part of the programme (basically 5 trips to London, Milan and Paris, accommodation, etc) and for the plane ticket to far east.

Just to push some people that might be discouraged by some of the requisites stated at, or the techno-jargon being used here:

  • No, you do not have to have a clue of Japanese or Korean to apply to it. In fact, most of my colleagues did not speak a word or write a character before they took the first class at SOAS.
  • No, nobody expects you to be an expert on economics, politics, culture, etc. The purpose of that part of the programme is to give you a somewhat base on general culture. In other words, to learn a bit of the background of where the heck you intend to do business on.
  • No, you do not have to be from a uber big company exporting bazillions of gadgets to Japan or Korea. About one third of my colleagues come from small companies (me included) having less than 20 employees, and many of them too are services companies (me included again, more on that another day) that have somewhat modest turnovers.
  • No, your company does not need to already have a solid business relationship with Japanese or Korean clients. Many of my colleagues see the region as a promising place to try doing business with, and their very purpose of going through the programme is to look for a way to start doing business there.

So, summing up, having any of the above might make your application more attractive, but all those, and some of the requisites stated at, turn out to be just guidelines in the application process.

The main thing the committee selecting the accepted candidates is going to evaluate is, do your reasons to try reaching Japan or Korean make sense for your business, however big/small it is and whatever its industry sector is about? So if you do not fit in some of the requisites but are sure it makes sense for you to try tackling Japan or Korea, do not be discouraged and apply.

This was somewhat unstructured and there are lots of details I did not explain about. But anyhow, those are some tidbits.

El comienzo de qué

Domingo, 2006 octubre 22

Como el dominio del inglés es requisito indispensable para optar al Executive Training Programme de la Unión Europea, y probablemente mis comentarios sobre éste interesen sobretodo a gente que pueda querer optar, las entradas sobre ETP las voy a hacer en inglés.

In MY English, so bare with me ;-).

Before applying for the programme I spent countless hours googling for direct experiences from former ETP grantees. It stroke me as weird how small is the amount of testimonies that you can find on the internet about individuals that went through it, considering that the programme has been running for 25 years so far. This is part of the point of starting the weblog.

There are some people, though, that have indeed posted some feedback on the Internet, though. Since I have just been back from my first 3 days, I thought it made more sense to first just link to those that went through all of it. Not much to dig from, but there you have a (narrow) list of what I found publicly available:

The choice to be rational is arbitrary
Webblog by Richard Brooksby, ETP Japan 2005-2006 grantee. His experience with the former ETP program starts on his entry of April 4th, 2005. Talks mostly about him struggling with language classes, but has a very interesting post about renting an apartment in Japan. Check the following days through the Archive.
Weblog by a French guy, in French, which I happen not to speak. Former ETP grantee and married later on to a Japanese woman, from what I could decipher. Interpreting French from its similarities with Spanish proved to be too much for my interest, so I do not really know if there is anything worthy in it.
Tokyo House Hunting
Short essay by Claire Hénault, about finding an apartment in Tokyo, from an ETP grantee perspective.


Un españolito en Japón
In Spanish. Former ETP grantee (that’s what I assume, he does not state it openly). Main point of interestes are, as usual, his experiences renting an apartment and his description of the tough Japanese learning pace. The program now partners with another school (Waseda university), though.
Mi vida en Tokyo
Also in Spanish. Quite recent. From another ETP24 (that’s just before my cycle), this time a Spanish lady. Finally someone that talks about her experience of looking for a company to stay during the internship (besides all the usual stuff about the way Japanese classes worked, renting an apartment), etc. [She seems to still be around there… I guess I could drop a message in her inbox.]

I’ll update if someone points me to additional resources about individuals (I will create another post regarding useful institutional references, but Google is really spilling out of those).

Qué será, será…

Martes, 2006 octubre 17

Mañana me largo a París.

Empieza el programa de ETP, para el que sorprendentemente me seleccionaron hace un par de meses. Me siento a la vez emocionado y confuso. Supongo que es porque me dispongo a conocer a la gente con la que voy a compartir un proyecto de un año, y que van a tener que “suplir” a quienes voy a dejar atrás.

Aunque todavía falta casi medio año para ir a Japón, encontrarme con ellos supone el recordatorio que de aquí a un año llevaré ya muchos meses rodeado de gente que ahora son extraños, viviendo en la otra punta del planeta, extraño también, relacionándome con un idioma que no es el mío, y haciendo cosas que no tienen nada que ver con lo que hago ahora.

Todo eso le hace a uno preguntarse si se encuentra en un impasse, y qué significa eso exactamente. Supongo que la respuesta sólo existe en retrospectiva.